We received the Japanese version of Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec in the office this morning, and we've been playing the game all day long. Since we've had numerous opportunities to play around with the arcade mode in the past, we were eager to try out the Gran Turismo mode, which is an extremely robust career mode.
You start out this mode with no car and one and half million credits to your name. While that might seem like a lot of money, it's actually not. In fact, you'll only be able to afford to choose one of three cars from the game's hefty list of 170. While these three are all relatively weak, relatively small cars, they're more than able to compete with the initial batch of competition, which means that you should have no problem winning lots of races early, and then investing that prize money into a car that's a bit flashier.
These races are split up into five different leagues, and each league is composed of a different number of race weekends. Race weekends are further broken down into individual race days, which are made up of free practice sessions, a three-lap qualifying session, and finally, the actual race itself. Each one of these races will award you with prize money--more if you place first, less for every consecutively lower place that you finish. The first such league, the Beginner League, is available to you immediately, and it's composed of 20 different race weekends, each focusing on a specific class of car, like the Type-R Hondas, or the new VW Beetles. Each of the other leagues--Amateur League, Professional League, Rally Event, and Endurance--require you to possess a respective license before you're allowed to participate in the races. The licenses can sometimes be a little frustrating to attain, but they're well worth it, since the prize money from the more advanced leagues can be very desirable...this will let you pursue some of the previously unattainable cars as well, like the Jaguar XKR, the Raybrig NSX, and the Lamborghini Diablo GT.
Asides from a handful of tests, the license requirements in Gran Turismo 3 actually seem quite easy compared to the previous two games in the series. There are six license classes in the game that you have to go through in order--B, A, iB, iA, S, and R--each of which gets progressively more difficult, and each of which makes you perform eight different tasks before being able to pass that specific class. For example, one of the earlier tests involves you driving a Dodge Viper 1,000 meters and then bringing it to a complete stop in a designated area in less than 35 seconds. We were able to successfully complete the B, A, and iB, tests in one sitting. In fact, we had to reattempt only a handful of individual tasks.
The Gran Turismo mode also has a track where you can take any of your cars to test their acceleration, road-handling ability, and stopping power. There's even a place where you can not only wash your cars and check their oil levels--if you don't do this on a regular basis, your cars' performance will degrade over time--but you can also choose to buy a number of real-life wheels from a number of international manufacturers like Bridgestone, BBS, Dunlop, Falken, Enkei, OZ Racing, Speedline, and Yokohama. You can even upgrade or tweak various performance components of your vehicles from a huge list of parts like springs, tires, exhaust manifolds, headers, catback exhausts, and so on.
The Gran Turismo mode alone is enough to keep us glued to this game for hours on end. But there's a lot more of the game to experience, like the arcade mode, the goodies mode (which visually tracks any secrets you've unlocked), the two-player battle, and the iLink battle mode. For more information on all the game's modes and interesting nuances, be sure to read our entire preview coverage of Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec. This game is currently slated for release in late June.